Dawn Clayden gazes with satisfaction around her new ceramics studio. It’s been a long time in the making. Dawn, her partner Eric and five-year-old daughter Charlotte lived in the little cottage for 18 months while renovating the 1930s bungalow on their Mangawhai Road lifestyle block.
“It’ll be a massive change from the tiny single room I’ve been working in,” she says, happily. “This cottage is well over 100 years old and was relocated onto the property in the 1970s. I love it – it’s got so much character.”
Now she has a clear slate to get stuck into a whole new phase of her work, and she can’t wait. Her style is all about feminine florals embellished with touches of metallic gold or silver. She also creates quirky ceramic figurine sculptures, which have been so popular that she’s had to close orders while she catches up with commissions.
“My entire working and studying life has revolved around pottery and ceramics,” she says. I was keen on fashion design but my first job out of high school was at Morris & James pottery in Matakana.”
In 2005 Dawn left Morris & James to study design full time at Unitec, majoring in Object Design. “In my last year I was very lucky to do an internship at Studio Ceramics. I worked with a mould-maker who originally worked for Crown Lynn and to this day I still use the processes he taught me. I graduated with a Bachelor of Design in 2009, and in 2010 got straight into my Master’s degree.”
This was an opportunity for Dawn to explore the limits of porcelain clay. She took on an intense theoretical discourse surrounding taste, ornamentation, socio-cultural issues and the impact of mass-production graduating in 2013. “I wrote my thesis while my daughter was under a year old,” she marvels “to this day I don’t know how I did it!”
Dawn’s love of flowers is present in most of her ceramics. But it’s not all super-girly. “I’ll often add a disruption of drips to pieces that can get too pretty,” she says. “And there’s a fair bit of tongue-in-cheek humour in my sculptural pieces.” Most of her work is devoid of colour which she sees as distracting, preferring to work in plain white or sometimes black.
She’s fizzing about the year ahead. “I’ve got some inspiring collaborations in the pipeline for 2018. One of my favourites recently has been with Eleanor Ozich. I made a collection of tableware for her gorgeous new book, The Art of Simple. It was so great to collaborate with another woman, working on what we both loved most.”
You’ll find Dawn’s work in The Poi Room (Ponsonby and Newmarket) and Studio Black in Riverhead. Dawn hopes to have some work in a local gallery and is also planning a little shop at her new favourite place: the fresh new space in her cottage studio.
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